The Government has already passed a statutory instrument named The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 and is now looking to pass emergency legislation with a draft bill likely to be announced today. This could easily affect your ability to run your business as we all attempt to support one another in these difficult times.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations will permit the Secretary of State, or a public health official, to detain and isolate any suspected individuals, or groups, considered to present a risk of spreading the virus. If necessary, the police can be used to enforce this order.
Any failure to cooperate with public health professionals will contravene these regulations and can result in enforced detention. Where necessary a police officer can use reasonable force and convey individuals (including children) to either a hospital, their home or another suitable facility. Prosecutions under these Regulations it will be dealt with in the Magistrates Court and could lead to a criminal record and a fine up to £1000.
How does COIVD-19 affect my business?
These Regulations are wide-ranging and could easily affect the movement of employees who have been asked to attend work premises to keep your business moving.
The Regulations may be interpreted widely enough to suspend any group gatherings, which could include your workforce, for any activity that is not deemed essential.
The Regulations do contain provisions for appeals to the Magistrates Court if the authorities make an error in judgment, so employers will have to be ready to help employees to challenge decisions given the fast-changing and unprecedented circumstances at play. The purpose of the Regulations is clearly to stop risky people movements which could jeopardise public health, so a lot will depend on the first interaction between the individual and the authorities.
The draft Coronavirus Bill, in its current form, will give wide-ranging powers to UK Border Force. This includes the ability to suspend operations at airports and ports across the country. Any business that relies on imports/exports for either supplies or to get products to market is likely to be affected by this legislation.